What is it you want to say? Why is it you want to write? Is it a need? It has to be a need—a deep desire that cannot be satisfied without applying pen to paper. And here I am, attempting to apply pen to paper. It is like trying to get blood from a stone, this drawing out of words into an idea. It is alien to me. I develop thoughts by having something to say and recording that something. When I have nothing to say, recording becomes difficult, if not impossible. But here I try. I attempt to watch words sear on to the paper, caffeine flowing through my veins, as if inspiration could flow from a bottomless mug.
Stories always have to start somewhere.
“Failure has a taste. It digs deep into your constricting throat and churns the bile in your stomach. It calls forth the demons in your head, the ones that force you to look away when you realize the predicament that the players find themselves in. You have been taught to avoid failure—it is a poorly designed lesson,” the teacher said.
Johnny was staring at the clock. Mr. Hessal’s lessons were rarely insightful, and this one was no exception. Johnny knew that the failure he spoke of was his own. Why else would he be trapped in this twenty-room schoolhouse, passing on his learning of failure and basic mathematics?
“It’s been said,” Mr. Hessal continued, “that all new ideas are derived from failing to succeed. This is hogwash.”
Damn. Once again you head in no direction and you puke words onto the page. You begin to formulate scenes, begin to put words in the mouths of these strangers, and you end up going nowhere. Why don’t you write on something you know? Why aren’t you concentrating on researching and writing your article? Is there something more you want—something that only fiction can bring you? And if this is true, what is that, and where do you suppose you will find it?
You start with the blank page and, as you poetically stated before, you sear the musings of your soul onto it. You reach down to where thoughts and ideas become truths and beliefs, a place that by visiting you are set up for the failure you were worrying about; you draw out grains of thoughts, placing them on the page and wondering if organization will bring about an interesting story. Those are the two steps: the soul dredging and the organizing. For some, it is the first that draws the scorn of the mind; for others, the organizing principle of written communication confounds them. A failure of either and the results are the same. It doesn’t work, ideas aren’t conveyed, writing fails.
Practice and time is what allows one to get past these roadblocks. What’s that cliché? Even the mightiest mountain fears time. That is what you must do to overcome this stoppage. You must force yourself to sit and write—to pour your soul onto paper and allow your mind to organize what your soul discloses. You must open up and allow your soul to speak before clamping down and organizing those thoughts. This is a painful exercise. Opening your soul to these thoughts—bringing forth thoughts that are translated to ideas only with difficulty—is not for the timid. Since you’re here and this is what you want to do, I imagine you are not timid. I imagine you understand that and agree with where you’re heading.
You will begin hundreds of times. You must let your fingers wander and translate the drippings of your soul. And where you end up? You will have translated one of the infinite possibilities that the universe creates. You will have brought it into being, breathed life into it. And once it’s breathing, out there, you will begin on another story, another possibility that is waiting to be shared. A million monkeys and typewriters can do it. They can do it because it already exists somewhere. That is not good enough, however. Who is going to look through the manuscripts of the monkeys to find the Shakespeare? Instead, it is your job as a writer to not only bring up from the depths of the universe these stories, but also to take them and give them an audience. Say to people, ‘this is a story worth reading.’
These are just thoughts. These are just scribbles. This is your approximation of inspiration with steamed milk. What you need to do, you want to do, is to start scribing from the soul. Start listening, exploring, recording. And when it’s out there, then start organizing. What is it you want to say? It is what has ears and desires. It is what wants and calls, sings and begs. Bring it forth. You are the narrator; find your voice. Don’t think of what is done, but do what it is you want to do, to speak. This is my message to you. Distract, focus, do.
Time stopped. That’s not completely accurate. Time does not really stop; we’ve learned that it’s relative, but that doesn’t mean we can redefine the rules and stop it. Time slowed is a more accurate understanding of what was going down.
The pain. It’s not easy. It’s fucking hard writing down what you’re thinking, feeling. Finding the words that reflect what it is your soul is speaking. Reaching that point of emotional vomiting—that is the end. Only once the puke covers the page can you go back and remove the chunky goodness from the bile, rearranging the undigested food into a banquet. But before regurgitating, you must digest the ideas, the stories, the societies or their parallels that will be spewed on the page. You must speak with them, learn about how they think, what they want, how it is. After you know that, you have the ingredients necessary. Is that where you’re heading? Start the approach.
He watched the balding man sip his coffee. It was late in the day.
Of a more important figure, it was hard to imagine.
Frightened, he attacked the banquet table.
Big feet in little shoes and fashionable, black socks.
This is the palette of your communication, sentences and words. What you’re missing is the story. You have to want to say something—something longer than the sentence or paragraph that you describe as a story. It is longer than the page that has a few ideas that you define as a story. You must throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. You must begin to build, to generate the idea’s germ, and then you must run. You must grab it, hold it with all your might, and sprint to the first hurdle.
You can write about the puking of ideas and what you’re doing wrong. The reason you can write about these is because it’s something to say. When you write the paragraph and give up, it’s caused by not knowing what it is you want to say. You have to outline, think, declare the story. Start with short stories. Plan them out. Write them. Then move on. How do you suppose you can write a novel without understanding how to write something shorter? how to actually complete something. Go with it.
Much better. You at least wrote something down. It’s absolute crap, but at least its words on the paper. It’s definitely not your soul that’s speaking there. But it’s a start. From here you can translate and rewrite. The hard part is getting the idea and following it through. Once you have that done you can rework it, rewrite portions, and compile it until it makes sense. I think I might be done for the day. I’m getting a little frustrated sitting here in Starbucks. It’s a good day. I think I accomplished something.
Why do I feel like I’m going to vomit after I finish one of these sessions? I won’t blame the caffeine—although it’s obvious that that is part of it. It feels similar to when I am sexually drained. The last thing I want to do is continue the pursuit. I feel spent, like the effort wasn’t worth the cost. Reading back over what I created never reflects what it is I was feeling. I be out of here presently.
And here I am, back at the Starbucks, readying myself to begin writing again. I’ve been thinking about the programmer story. I’m ready to continue it. I ordered a Cappuccino today—not sweet enough, but hot enough to squeeze the words from me.
You need to report on something. You have to watch it in your head. Yeah, he’s programming, or watching his drunk father beat his wife, but where are you going? Why are you starting with that? Where’s the build-up? Where’s the introduction, the scene-setting? You need all of this. You see how quickly you type when you have something to say? When you’re struggling to form the scene in your head, that’s when you slow down, that’s when the pain begins. You must see everything first. See it with your mind’s eye in such clarity that the words just pour from your fingers. The images should spring out of you, not be forced from your unwilling grasp. You must first let go, and open your creative self, as a poor-excuse for a self-help author might say. This is a learning experience. That you are sitting here, attempting to accomplish this something that you have wanted for so long, that is the important part. That is where you are heading, what you want. The words flow easier when you discuss these ideas. This is the freeform flow that you want from the actual story.
The trumpet pickled the notes, storing them in a jar, before the waiting world poured its juices in their minds.
Yes, the analogies are difficult, and maybe they’re the ones that take time. But what it is you want to say, that should be there; that should be waiting for you to express it. See the universe unfold in front of you. Visualize where it is heading, where it wants to go, portray that easily, quietly, faintly.
This is fun. Smile! Enjoy the writing. Imagine what other things you could be doing. How boring they are, how unfulfilling compared to this, this exposing of your soul—removing the overcoat covering your nakedness. Allowing others to peer in. This is what is living! This is the discovery of who you are, the chance to speak to yourself, have deep conversations on topics that interest you; receive answers based on those conversations, those ideas! Develop your philosophy, decide when to use exclamation marks, semicolons, words that belong or belong just because you say they do. This is what you want. This is why you want to write. You want to live! Live on the paper. Live in the universe, the monkey’s universe, if you like, that jumps from you. Show the world that these fingers pounding on the keys will bring you somewhere, somewhere you want to be. Fuck them if they don’t want to go there. You want to go there. That’s what counts, that’s the beauty of what you’re doing! Share your joy. Find your muse. Fuck that! Find your voice. You have your muse, smiling while you type. You enjoy it! I know you do. Look at how many exclamation marks you used in this paragraph, you the hater of all such punctuation. This is your calling. How much fun this is? How much fun this is! There’s no doubt. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be then sitting on this brown cushy chair, watching people walk in and out of the café. Watching the beautiful ladies, old people, business and school meetings while I pound out my words. It’s the words, the poetry, the translation of organized ideas. You know what that is. This is ecstasy. Magic. You wanted magic. You wanted to wield magic your whole life and here is your magic wand. You are Merlin, David Copperfield, a Genie, all rolled into one! The pen moving across the paper, the spiky haired woman attempting to distract you but just accommodating you with inspiration. My god! This is what I want to do. This is the something I’ve wanted to do all along. I can’t believe it’s taken you this long to realize it. Yes, you need polish. Yes, you’re writing, while perhaps grammatically correct, needs something, excitement or aim. But that will come. Your vocabulary is weak. But instead of latching on to others that do what it is you want to do, you do it! Let others latch onto you. Steal their energies. Fuck their energy! You don’t need their energy. You have plenty of your own. Just feel it flowing from you. Flowing is the wrong word there. It’s too Star-Wars-esque. You’re digging the minerals out of the rock, excavating the gems, sharing them with the screen. My god! What magic. Now, don’t delay. Continue these musings, but instead of giving them, instead of sharing them in this way—directly—share them the way you want: through the flow of fiction. Go now! Don’t delay. Use this voice. Be excited, be happy, feel the pain, the sadness, the emotions! It’s emotions you want to feel. That is what great writing has, what it can do. It can share with you. Let it! Use it! You love the feeling, the emotional constraints. Use them! Your voice is heard through these emotions; use the outpouring of pure, unadulterated dreams in the form of a story. Tell it! Free time? What’s that? You know what you want to do with your free time. You know how you want to spend it. You will go elsewhere. Find a place to sit, open your computer and share with yourself what you’re thinking. The pleasure! I never thought I’d find what it is that I want to do, and here it’s been staring at you all along. You even knew! Of course, you might have known it in the materialistic sense. But that’s not where you are now. Fuck the audience. You want to share things. You want to see the boy with the t-shirt and green, shiny button run across your screen, years from now after you’ve forgotten the first few times you exposed yourself. Every thing you see, you’ve seen, that’s what you draw from. Consciously who gives a shit what it is you remember. Look at it! You have it all and it will come out. It will come out in ways that you won’t even realize you had it in you. Inspiration. Blech! Who needs that? You have something better. Now, don’t reason, don’t think! Those are unnecessary baggage for this first stage. You need to do better. You need to feel. Feel and type. That is all. Let your mind wander in ecstasy—learning to spell as well. Brilliance is acquired and learned. Sharing is something everyone can do, something everyone wants to do. You will do it. Don’t look back. Don’t look in the rearview mirror. There’s nothing there to see but failure. Joy is not failure. That is where you’re heading. GO!
Free flowing is the way I think of it. You sit there in front of the computer and strike the keys and things happen. Magic things. You’re always surprised that you can do it. That the computer obeys your whims; the only thing it requires of you is a strict obedience to the syntax of the language.
You’re using the organization, David! I like that. But you have to plan more. You need to know exactly where you’re heading. That way when you get there, wherever there is, you know the next stop. I can take that. I can draw it out on paper. My mind doesn’t allow me to focus on it, remember it like that author describing her procrastination in writing her fifth book allowed her. I can’t play out the scenes in my head. I can’t see them develop into something in the playhouse of my mind. But that’s okay. You can see them develop on the page. It’s not the easy part, but when you finally see the conclusion, when the outline jumps out at you as being the only way to say it, the only story you want to write, that’s when you go on. That’s when you share it. That’s where the brilliance flows. Use it!
I still need to plan. I need to know where I’m heading. This is why I sit down today and type. Let’s see if I can get somewhere.
I’m back in Starbucks this weekend, after my trip to Gatwick. Strange things have happened, but I won’t go into them. Instead, I want to talk about writing and where I’m heading. I’ve spent a long time reading DFW’s Infinite Jest. Damn good book with phenomenal writing. I’ve been question whether I can write because of that book. I know I shouldn’t be comparing, but it’s hard not to. What do I have to add to society’s library? Is the writing just about the ego-gratification? I know that’s one of the reasons, one of my hopes and dreams. What if it’s just about enjoying the exercise of writing? I’m not sure if I can convince myself of that for long. I do enjoy these writing sessions, but what if I end up with nothing of value? That’s always a possibility. But how will you know until after you try? Why say no before even trying? How long have you been at it? About eight hours? Much more time is needed. You have your plan, get with it and stop wasting time on these musings. Go it. Brilliant.
I’m just reporting dialogue and thoughts I’ve had in the past. There’s almost nothing there. What’s wrong with this? How am I supposed to write more than a single book—a single chapter? I have nothing to say even to fill up its pages! I haven’t felt one emotion yet. Not one. I thought you were supposed to be portraying them, the emotions. And yet, what have you done? Nada. Shared nothing. Why? Why, why, why?
Research. You need to do real research. Otherwise, how do you expect to write about anything interesting? You’re right. And yet here I sit, pounding away with nothing to say. Are you blocked? No. I’m just fucking lazy. Even these complaints are hollow. I must continue.
Forced to write? It’s the lack of inspiration. When you’re not inspired to write, or you have nothing that inspires you, don’t waste the keystrokes. Work on the outline. Work on bringing the ideas together. When you are inspired, and words flow from your fingers like the purple slimy globs you were describing, then go to the novel itself. Otherwise, just edit and plan. Wait for inspiration to hit; and if doesn’t hit, ram it down the computer’s throat. It’s all good. Everything is good. You are working on the goal, presenting.
I’ve been failing lately. I’ve not been sitting down, not even been pretending to sit down, to write. I don’t know why this happens. I do know why this happens. It’s laziness. I wait for inspiration, but it’s not inspiration that I need, but desire, effort. That’s lacking. I’m passionate about things for short periods of time. It’s a pattern that I can trace throughout my life. I “get into” something, thinking it’s going to last, but it never does. It never lasts beyond the first dedicated moments. The initial thoughts that flow thickly, like honey coating the plastic squeeze bottles. That’s where you need to trade. That’s what you need to get.
As far as I know, I’ve never actually completed something that required individual inspiration. I’ve completed lots of projects that had an external motivation, but never an internal one. Writing requires you to come to terms with an internal motivational source, and draw upon its strengths. You don’t draw well. Suck it up. Don’t you remember when you were writing the above musings, when you were inspired and could feel the world rest comfortably in your palm? What happened to those times? Why can’t you draw upon that same inspiration to write?
It might go beyond the inspiration, however. You also need guidance. You need a plan to go somewhere and the motivation to get there. Goals. Guidance. Plans. I’d like to say that you can get there, but I’m not sure. You’ve never been a storyteller, at least not a fiction storyteller. I still think you can do it, I’m just not sure you actually will.
Now you’re coming to the real inability to write. You can’t tell a story. You can string words nicely together. You can organize thoughts. You can set a scene. You can describe in excruciating details the minutiae of someone’s thoughts and feelings. But when it comes time to actually write something—to tell a story outside of the nothingness of inaction, you hit a wall. You don’t know what to say. You don’t know what happens. That’s where I’m going to concentrate my thoughts. I have to come up with what happens. Forget how it happens or why. Garp was an important book for you. It demonstrated what you lack: the ability to tell a story. A book is a study in mortality. The epilogue is the body count. Start counting bodies!
Imagination. Draw up an interesting story to tell. You have control over what is said and what is done. Put it all together!